Maureen Dougan - Self Portrait, 2007
Biography of Maureen Dougan, Artist
Maureen Dougan's art was well known to her friends and collaborators, but did not reach the general public except in small exhibitions, including some works presented as part of a larger exhibition at the Sadie Bronfman Centre, and community exhibitions with the Creative Social Centre of Chevra Kadisha B’hai Jacob Synagogue. She was also represented with other local artists in a digital biography produced by Forward House, a community support organization in Montreal. Therefore the primary purpose of this website is to bring attention to her work and its legacy.
Maureen's Life and Art
Maureen Elizabeth Dougan was born in Sherbrooke, Quebec on June 18, 1948, the oldest daughter of the late Alfred Dougan and Marion Dougan. She was one of five children, who grew up together in the small town of Lennoxville, Quebec. Maureen’s creative interests spanned music and art from an early age, mentored by her mother who herself was very creative and innovative. After graduating from high school in Lennoxville, Maureen subsequently attended Sir George Williams, York and Concordia Universities, eventually settling in Montreal in the late 1970’s. She was formally trained in fine art at Concordia, and after some years of experimentation in painting and sculpture, focused on becoming a highly skilled water colour artist. She worked for 24 years at the McGill University Medical Library as a cataloguing specialist for medical materials and publications, which became important icons and themes in her paintings from the early 1980’s onward. While at McGill she also served as a literacy volunteer. In her early 20's she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which throughout the balance of her life was a major day-to-day reality. Eventually she became her own advocate as she struggled with the multiplicity of beauocracy that encumbers the challenged. Her art, and her life reflect the determination she felt and expressed to live and be creative despite her disorder.
Maureen’s art evolved substantially throughout her life, initially involving experimentation with lino cut prints, soft sculptures (her 1970’s ‘Phone’ series of soft sculptures, prints and paintings), and paintings integrating acrylic, pen and pencil, charcoal, and watercolour. By the 1980's she settled on watercolour because of its transparency that most characterizes Maureen’s work, allowing the layering of images, from nearly opaque, to thin wash, to bare paper. The paper is almost always evident in both colour and texture through the paint, and it is the variation in transparency, yet capacity for intense explosions of colour, that give the paintings such depth and life. Charcoal, pen and pastels maintained a role in her work, often forming a basic part of the construction of the theme, before watercolour was brought into the work.
Her works spanned still life and florals, landscapes (‘Galiano’ series in British Columbia, ‘Farm View Over Water’ in rural Waterloo County, Ontario, and ‘Signal Hill’ in Newfoundland), medical themes and science (e.g. ‘Lady Rose’, ‘Mendel’s Law in Memory’). The work in the early- to mid-1980’s reflected her daily work at McGill, incorporating a variety of media (‘Which Memory’, ‘Lady Rose’, ‘Roses’, ‘Withdraw’, ‘Medberg Charles Kay’); by the late 1980’s and early 1990’s she transitioned towards a strong emphasis on watercolour, often integrating pen or pencil, and strongly spiritual themes that utilized the power of watercolour washes to create ethereal properties (‘Dark Lady’, ‘Tied Hands’, ‘Lady in Hall’, ‘Cross’, ‘SOS (abuse)’, ‘Miss Ko’s Shoes’, ‘Lady Matilda’, ‘It’s a Man’s Worlds’, ‘Lifejacket’, ‘Aging 1 of 2’ and ‘Aging 2 of 2’, ‘Compulsion to Dance’, ‘Lady/Woman with Mask’). From the mid-1990’s to the end of her life Maureen strongly focused on symbols of infancy and ageing, particularly faces: children’s, (‘Dynasty’, ‘Baby in Blanket’, ‘Infant’), and older women (‘Concerned’, ‘Listening Lady’, ‘Eva #2’). The overlay of human embryo symbolism in the paintings of faces was a recurrent theme appearing in the latter group of paintings.
Maureen had a lifelong interest in floral themes, incited by Georgia O’Keefe, and beginning in the 1970’s she created numerous large and smaller paintings of pansies, carnations and roses as gifts for special friends and family. Floral imagery also appeared in the medical and science works; floral works became more experimental and abstract as she progressed. Her ‘60th Birthday Flowers’ was one example of her later celebratory floral works.
Maureen’s life was an example of pure love, beauty and grace. She loved completely, not by halves: her family, friends, art and life itself. She saw beauty in every being, no matter how small. Maureen valued her lifelong interest in art for its healing effects for herself and others. Her experiences with work, life and her art emerged as powerful themes, particularly of patience, generosity, personal introspection, power and weakness, femininity and feminism, youth and aging, and spirituality. Her extensive journals traced the high demands that she placed on all aspects of her life and art.
Maureen was a collector of both friends and artifacts of living. Despite personal challenges and living alone, she established, embraced, and was sustained by a community of friends and artists in Montreal. She collaborated with the art program at the Creative Social Centre of Chevra Kadisha B’hai Jacob Synagogue in NDG (Montreal), drawn not by religion beliefs but rather by great friendships that she developed with local artists within that organization. She allowed some of her art to be used for producing greeting cards to raise funds for the Centre, and one of her small paintings was devoted to the Centre. She also undertook some commissioned pieces for special friends.
Maureen acquired a large collection of items from friends, family and her community that were reminders of the past, of hope, of tender youth and aging, and of femininity, gender relationships, addiction, violence and abuse. These became recurring icons, themes and background for her works: library cardfiles, postcards, fancy lacework, women’s formal gloves, hats, neckties, war service medals, baby’s booties, toy guns, dolls, ceramic figures, pottery, bone china, carvings and many notional items. She also acquired a large collection of antique and modern aboriginal basketry from British Columbia and other parts of Canada, and her library contained many references on basketry, weaving and textiles.
Maureen built an extensive library of books on art history and artists; her particular favorites included historic landscape and figure painters. Themes and experiments visible through her work reflect her interest in and study of modern artists such as Francis Bacon, Jasper Johns, Mark Rothko, and in particular, Georgia O’Keefe, whose works she greatly admired.
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